Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Drew Nelson

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is the author of The Book Itch, as well as three Coretta Scott King Award-winning books: No Crystal Stair, Bad News for Outlaws, and Almost to Freedom. She is a former youth services librarian in New Mexico. Visit her online at


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Uncle Wiggily and Jackie and Peetie Bow Wow by Howard Garis, and poetry that my father used to recite from memory like “Oh Captain, My Captain” and “Little Orphan Annie.” Another book that stays in my memory is Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

There are many great lines, but one of my favorites is, “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” (Scout recalling Atticus Finch’s words in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

This is a question impossible for me to answer. There are so many wonderful authors and illustrators and they all are so different. Three of my favorite books are—To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. But there are many, many others.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

My mother read to us every night and my father wrote and recited poetry. They shared their love of words and stories. They taught me the power of language and inspired me to use this power to create the kind of writing that might move others the way I was, and continue to be, moved.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

Read. Reading other writers can help you to learn about the craft of writing, about what makes a story work.

Write often. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Writers need to practice just like musicians and athletes. Perfect your craft so that when you are inspired, you have the skills to tell your story.

Love words and make every one count. Care as much about how you say a thing as you do about what you are saying. Don’t be so anxious to submit to a publisher that you settle for something less than your best work.